There’s no doubt you’ve heard about the upcoming Small Business Saturday driven by American Express. Celebrating its second year, Small Business Saturday is now an annual tradition encouraging consumers to shop at local small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
While many small businesses will offer extended store hours and special discounts with the hope of generating as much revenue as possible this coming November 26, it’s important to remember that Small Business Saturday shouldn’t be just a one-day event. It’s an opportunity to establish what will become long-term customer relationships with an audience that’s captive, local, and can be your strongest allies when it comes to word-of-mouth marketing.
You can start generating interest in the event now by telling your customers to “Like” the Small Business Saturday Page on Facebook to receive special offers. You can also use this as an opportunity to steer customers to your Facebook business page where you initiate discussions and provide them with additional insider discounts.
If you’re feeling like bigger businesses run by conglomerates still have an upper hand in terms of marketing and recruiting customers, think again. Here are three more ways to use Small Business Saturday to outshine the big box competition and set the foundation for driving repeat customers throughout the year.
1. Demonstrate your expertise: Since nobody knows your business better than you, freely share your knowledge with customers. Instead of just offering discounts or sales promotions, think about helping your audience learn something. This can take the form of product demonstrations, private showings, or classes. You can make these part of the Small Business Saturday shopping experience and take advantage of the increased foot traffic to invite customers back when your store is less crowded.
Remember, you don’t have to give away your trade secrets for this to be successful. Think about helpful tips and tricks that you can teach your customers to keep them coming back to you – not just for more tips but for the products or services that you sell.
2. Create an experience: Whether a customer is spending $1 or $1,000 at your business, I can’t stress enough how important it is to consider how they view the experience. It’s not enough to offer great deals; if you can’t keep up with the volume or your customers have an unpleasant encounter with one of your employees, they won’t be shy to talk about those experiences. Ask yourself:
a) Are customers greeted by friendly, knowledgeable staff? And do those staff members know the difference between being helpful and being invasive?
b) Do the cash registers form barriers between the shoppers and the products or are they set off to the side, allowing customers to freely browse the aisles?
c) If your business requires that customers stay on the premises for an extended period of time, do you provide pleasant distractions while they wait?
If you feel you’re too close to your business to fairly assess how a first-time customer would view the experience, ask for feedback. This also gives you an opportunity to engage your customers on a more personal level.
To read the rest of my thoughts about Small Business Saturday, check out my latest column on American Express’ OPEN Forum.